From The Poynter Report: The Latest Scenes and Stories from Ukraine Are a Gut Punch

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

The latest scenes and stories from Ukraine are a gut punch

As we look for signs of hope in Ukraine — just any sliver of optimism, such as Russian troops pulling out of some Ukrainian cities — we are greeted with a gut punch.

That’s the exact phrase U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken used Sunday when talking about seeing images of dead Ukrainians in Bucha and hearing the real-life nightmares of what has happened in some towns where Russian troops have been.

“You can’t help but see these images as a punch to the gut,” Blinken told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “And, look, we have said before Russia’s aggression that we thought it was likely that they would commit atrocities. Since the aggression, we have come out and said that we believe that Russian forces have committed war crimes. And we have been working to document that, to provide the information that we have to the relevant institutions and organizations that will put all of this together. And there needs to be accountability for it. But I think the most important thing is, we can’t become numb to this. We can’t normalize this. This is the reality of what’s going on every single day as long as Russia’s brutality against Ukraine continues. That’s why it needs to come to an end.”

But the end is not imminent, and the scenes are so ghastly that becoming numb should not be an option.

The Washington Post’s team of reporters in Ukraine wrote, “Scenes of horror and devastation emerged as Russian troops withdrew from towns they had seized in the opening days of the invasion of Ukraine. Bucha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk told The Washington Post that about 270 residents had been buried in two graves. He estimated that 40 bodies were on the streets.”

There’s this horrific passage in a New York Times story from Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Natalia Yermak (and photos by Tyler Hicks): “There are also stories, impossible to verify, highlighting the kind of hate left in an occupation’s wake and sharing a common thread of brutality: children held at knife point; an old woman forced to drink alcohol as her occupiers watched and laughed; whispers of rape and forced disappearances; and an old man found toothless, beaten in a ditch and defecated on.”

During an appearance on Sunday’s “Face The Nation” on CBS, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “Indeed, this is genocide.”

Zelenskyy told moderator Margaret Brennan, “And I want to apologize to you and to those people who are watching us now, but, for some things that they have done, when we find people with — with hands tied behind their back and decapitated, such things, I don’t understand, I don’t comprehend, the kids who were killed and tortured. So it wasn’t enough just to kill for those criminals. Maybe they wanted to take gold or washing machines. And they were killing them, but they were also torturing them as they did this.”

In a column for The Washington Post, Max Boot wrote, “This, sadly, is the Russian way of war. It is how Putin’s forces fought in Chechnya and Syria — and before that, how Soviet forces fought in Afghanistan and in central Europe during World War II. They commit war crimes to terrorize the population into surrender. But it hasn’t worked in Ukraine. Russia’s savagery has simply caused the Ukrainians to resist all the harder because they know they are fighting not just for their freedom but for their very survival.”

In the haunting piece by Gibbons-Neff and Yermak for the Times, a doctor in Trostyanets, Ukraine, said, “This is true barbarity.” Another resident talked about the Russian troops, saying “Oh, God, how I wanted to spit on them or hit them.”

Following the Zelensky interview, Brennan spoke with former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, who said, “We see in many wartime scenarios all the way through history, these kinds of reports. But if this was genuinely a special military operation to liberate a fraternal country from what Putin was describing as Nazis, you would not expect this kind of conduct. So, either this is a complete breakdown of command and control, or it’s actually being sanctioned in some way to teach Ukrainians a lesson. Either way, this is actually pretty disastrous and obviously requires some kind of serious response in the international community.”

What will that response look like?

The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein and John Hudson have a story with the headline “U.S. weighs tougher Russia sanctions after evidence of Bucha killings.” That could include “second sanctions,” which would target countries that continue to trade with Russia.

Stein and Hudson write, “The Biden administration could also impose sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy that it has not hit so far, including mining, transportation and additional areas of the Russian financial sector. The world continues to buy billions of dollars worth of Russian oil and gas, giving the Kremlin a direct financial lifeline. Officials stressed that planning was preliminary and no decisions had been made about potential responses.”

During his appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Blinken said discussions about additional sanctions are something that happens “every single day,” adding, “We’re tightening the existing sanctions. We’re adding new ones. We’re doing it in full coordination with Europeans and other partners around the world.”

Other notable journalism from Ukraine-Russia

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